Wearing a saree with a swimsuit top

Draping a saree over a swimsuit seems to generate a lot of strong sentiments in many women … Why is wearing a saree with a bikini top such a big deal? Why is that people’s pride and joy in their motherland is contained in someone else’s clothing? Why are women’s sartorial choices such a battle ground for those who indulge in moral policing?

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Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

Apparently, wearing a saree with a bathing-suit top is vulgar, an insult to my culture/ religion and a way to completely destroy what my country stands for!

Seriously? Is the Indian culture just so easy to ruin and destroy?

Why is it that a woman dressed comfortably is vulgar and men dressed in much less aren’t?  To those worried about ‘too much skin’ on show, I would like to point out all the Indian men with dad bods just lounging around shirtless or on the beach in their ugly ‘Rupa underwear/ baniyan’.

The severe scrutiny faced by women’s external attire and the moral policing of our bodies is not news to any of us. I call bull-shit on people trying this form of sexist disciplining on grown individuals like myself.

To the moral police, women’s bodies are a battlefield to hoist their flag of decency- body parts are provocative, female agency offensive, feminist actions an anathema and our collective living, breathing existence an abhorrence. Why?

I have no time for older women passing on the pearls of patriarchy to those of us who are viewed as younger or less modest. Let me remind all the ‘sankskari’ types who think all women should dress ‘modestly’ that there is no dress code defined by our culture or by our constitution. We are all free to dress however we like!

I wear what I like, go where I please, respond aggressively to sexism and misogyny coyly called eve-teasing, unlike the demure, quivering girl looking for a knight that patriarchy expects me to be.

Let me make myself clear, extreme forms of misogyny are flourishing in India, aided, abetted and perpetuated by the women who are self-appointed protectors of patriarchy.

And here’s my little message to women who victim blame, slut-shame or bully other women and police their choice of clothing or shove outdated ideas of modesty down other people’s throats: You are the cog in the wheel that is responsible for India’s rape culture and violence against women.

More posts of me wearing sarees with different swimwear here, here, here, here, here  and here .

 

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Patola saree and some more sisterhood

Here’s to stunning ikat textiles that never fail to mesmerise me with their beauty …

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Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

This patola saree in the photos is an example of one of my most favourite kinds of textiles, ikat, an exquisite form of tie-dye. The patterns are created by protecting parts of the yarn by binding it before the dyeing process, removing the binds after dyeing, possibly repeating this process multiple times, and then using this yarn in the warp, weft, or both to create stunning ombre patterns.

I’ve grown up around various ikats from Orissa (or Cottoki as I called it as a kid), Pochampally and Patolas. It is a weave I continue to be obsessed with, want more of and wear in many different forms like sarees, pants, shorts/skirts or tops as you can see here. It is also a weave that binds India to vast sections of Asia and South America.

The technique seems to have developed independently across many different cultures and continents, appearing in places like Peru, Chile, Guatemala, Yemen, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Kyrghystan, Uzbekistan and probably more locations that I am not aware of.

The saree I am wearing in the photos above is a single ikat Patola from Gujarat woven painstakingly by a skilled artisan. I bought this saree from one of the loveliest, most knowledgable and down-to-earth textile expert, Archana Jain of Jhini Chadariya. Since February is all about girl love here on Pleats n Pallu, I would like to take a moment to appreciate everything wonderful that women like Archana personify.

Willingness to share knowledge, celebrating everything from humble weaves and crafts to grander more illustrious ones, being open and transparent about the exact origins of her products, never bad-mouthing other online sellers and above all celebrating the artisans who create the products.

There is a lot to love about her way of operating her business and I wish there were more people like her around. Everyone that has interacted with her have nothing but wonderful things to say and I cannot wait to see her when I am in India next.

I wanted to write about her because my experience of buying from her has been truly great and she doesn’t go around marketing her brand much. Just the fact that she doesn’t tom-tom about her products and doesn’t get other people to shout from the rooftops about her products means that when you buy from people like her, your money is truly going to the artists that create your products and not paying for sponsored posts all over the internet.

So, if you’re looking to buy wonderful handmade products from a truly ethical business run by a woman check Jhini Chadariya out on facebook and instagram.

Weaves of India: Moirang Phee

When struggling to wear a hard to tame fabric, the trick is to not give up and wear it again and again till you finally master the drape …IMG_1020

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Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

A lot of us struggle with certain kinds of sarees and tend to avoid them or completely give up on those kinds of fabrics. Over the course of my saree adventures I have identified that heavily starched and heavy zari sarees completely confound me.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t like them or wear them, I just scuffle with them more than I do with others. But with difficult sarees, any problematic fabric for the matter I’ve discovered the one thing that always works is to wear them … Again and again.

In the case of heavily starched cottons, repeat uses, steam iron and handwashing are my go to. The way I come to terms with hard to drape textiles is by playing with them to figure out how they prefer to fall, not forcing them to submit to what I want.

The saree in these photos is a stiff Moirang Phee that I played with for almost two months before I was happy with the way I wore it. I gave up trying to drape it the way I had wanted to when I first saw it and went with easy and relaxed.

Wore it casually over a gathered skirt with applique work and my swim-suit top to frolic on the beach one evening post sunset not caring if the pleats or the pallu were askew. As usual I skipped wearing safety pins and played in the waves till it got dark and a ranger came over with a torch telling people that the access gates were being shut.

I have wanted a Moirang Phee for ages before I got this beauty that was woven in Manipur by two female weavers and took about a week to be handcrafted to perfection.

Manipur is a tiny state in India’s spectacular North-east, set among breathtaking blue hills full of stunning water-falls, beautiful temples, picturesque paddy fields, scenic lakes and a plethora of indigenous flora and fauna. The art of weaving has developed and been perfected over centuries in the state.

Even though the weaves from there are not as well-known as others like the Kanjeevaram or the Benarasi, I believe Manipur has some of the most beautiful handlooms in India. Also, unlike other parts of India weaving in Manipur is entirely the work of women.

Most of the Meitei families in the rural areas in the Barak Valley depend on weaving and the handloom industry. The unique ethnic designs of Meitei handloom weaving include Ningthou-Phee, Namthang-khut-hat, Lashing-Phee, Moirang-Phee and Leiroom etc.

Moirang-Phee is a textile fabric which has a specific design called ‘MoirangPheejin’ which is woven sequentially on both longitudinal edges of the fabric and oriented towards the centre of the cloth with cotton or silk threads. Orginally a product of the Moirang village in the Bishnupur district this design is now protected under the Geographical Indicator registration and produced throughout Manipur.

The ‘MoirangPheejin’ design is locally known as ‘YarongPhi’, ‘ya’ meaning tooth, ‘rong’ meaning long and ‘longba’ denoting pronged. The design is said to represent the thin and pointed teeth of ‘Pakhangba’, the Pythonic God in Manipuri mythology.

I have come across a lot of sellers selling these sarees but only two who genuinely source from weavers in Manipur, are able to give me details about where their products have been made, tell me about the yarns used and the meaning behind different motifs.

It has also come to my attention that a lot of similar looking sarees woven with substandard yarn in Bangladesh are passed off by unscrupulous sellers as Moirang Phees.

One thing I’ve learnt is to stay away from sellers who can’t answer my questions or avoid them and those who claim to sell authentic products for ridiculously low prices.

This saree is from a woman-owned and operated business run by a fabulous Manipuri lady, Amy Aribam who stocks delectable handloom concoctions. Check out her MoirangPhee stocks on her website or on instagram.

Indigo dabu print by the lakeside

Here you have a garment that didn’t cause much destruction to the environment while in production, is ageless, fits any size or gender, can be worn in innumerable ways and lasts and lasts ..

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Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

Immersed in the patterns of Rajasthani tribes in India’s west, this hand blocked dabu print indigo saree is the very definition of softness created with natural colours and gets better with ever wash. In my opinion, garments that have been made following age old practices not only look fabulous, they have a long life, are good for the environment and for the wearer as well.

Indigo, the most commonly known natural dye, is traced back to the days of the Indus valley civilisation, is the only dye that bonds naturally with cotton fibre, so it does not need a mordant (dye fixative) and (in my limited knowledge) it is also the only dye that is done in a cold process and not in a hot bath. It is highly revered among the craftsmen and wearing indigo dyed fabric is thereby considered auspicious.

Gorgeous embossed designs have been found on the cloth scraps in the carcass of Mohenjo Daro proving that block printing in India was used as early as 3000 B.C. One of the main forms of block printing consists of the Dabu & Bagru Block printing of the Thar desert.

If I could, I would solely wear natural over synthetic dyes, apart from being more sustainable natural dyes are also less of an irritant to one’s skin. Researchers have discovered that, as clothing comes into prolonged contact with one’s skin, toxic chemicals are often absorbed into the body, especially when one is warm and skin pores have opened to allow perspiration.

The fashion industry has been called the second biggest polluter on the planet and an average fast fashion garment does more harm than we can imagine to the environment. Think of the genetically modified seeds, harmful chemicals including synthetic dyes, pesticides and fertilizers, carcinogens, child labour, people losing their lives in questionable factories and pollution of water resources that are the requirements of the fashion industry.

Made from petrochemicals, polyester and nylon are not biodegradable, so they are unsustainable by their very nature. Cotton is a very thirsty plant and growing it in vast quantities can deplete valuable resources as well which is why I believe handcrafted/ hand loomed sarees that last generations are one of the most sustainable garments on this planet.

They are free-size so the fit is never a problem, if one doesn’t stress too much about matching blouses and fitted underskirts it is genuinely one of the longest lasting item of clothing a person could have.

Also this saree blouse and petticoat business is a Victorian British introduction which I have no fondness for. Don’t get me wrong, I love elaborate cholis and bright saree blouses as much as the next person but I don’t think the lack of those, impacts one’s ability to wear a saree.

Wearing different coloured tops and accessories along with a novel drapes can genuinely completely change the look. So basically here you have a garment that didn’t cause much destruction in production, is ageless, fits any size or gender, can be worn in innumerable ways and lasts and lasts.

Have I made enough of an argument about how ethical produced sarees are one of the most sustainable garments known to humans?